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Who is Hiram Cronk and why should you care?

July 4, 2012

In 1812 America declared war on Britain in a largely forgettable affair that stretched over a few years and ended up with some embarrassing defeats on both sides.  In the end it was mostly a stalemate, Canada was made safe from American incursion,  America found itself being invaded (the White House was burned) and the British couldn’t hope to hold onto to American geography, while the USA ran into some financial troubles as a result of funding the war effort.

As is customary during conflict, feelings of nationalism rise, and this was the case in America in the immediate period after 1812.  The words for the Star Spangled Banner were written during The Battle of Fort McHenry, which was less a battle and more of a one-way bombardment as the British were able to pound the fort without fear of reprisal as their guns had a greater range.  Interestingly, while this battle gave rise to the American national anthem, the British couldn’t even be bothered to mark it with a campaign medal.

In the years following, the place of the war in American cultural memory was amplified precisely because the objectives of the war itself were not achieved and there was a need to hide military and political mismanagement.  While the war is now largely forgotten, its importance clearly resonated sufficiently for over a century for the funeral of Hiram Cronk, the last surviving veteran, to be filmed in 1905.

The comments on YouTube are interesting and highlight how powerful media is in stirring memory and creating comment.

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